Strike for the right to teach;National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Violence and indiscipline in classrooms will be met by industrial action, Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said. "We have authorised members to refuse to teach violent youngsters and backed it up with strike action."

A hardline policy was quietly effective north of the border, Mr de Gruchy said. Councils did not want "a Ridings", a reference to the troubled Calderdale secondary.

Mr de Gruchy said a study in Nottingham had shown that the behaviour of 95 per cent of excluded pupils improved after they were sent to another school. One of the spin-offs from the publication of league tables south of the border in the past five years was headteachers' greater enthusiasm for suspension.

"With the resources we have got, we have got to get on with educating the majority," Mr de Gruchy said. "Teachers have rights in class and they should not be subject to misbehaviour. They should not be sworn at, insulted or assaulted." The danger was that the blame was wrongly placed on incompetent teachers.

Tino Ferri, the union's Scottish spokesman, said he did not care if units for disruptive pupils were labelled sin bins, so long as teachers were protected. The union wants units either in school or off-site for pupils who break the rules. "The objective is that once they learn to behave, they can be reintegrated," Mr Ferri said.

* Teachers pay "a very heavy price" for having their pay settled by the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee, Mr de Gruchy said. "Free collective bargaining brings you less money." The union estimates the average Scottish teacher may be pound;750 a year worse off.

Mr de Gruchy, whose union is the second largest in the UK with 165,000 members (3,500 in Scotland), said a pay review body was less confrontational and delivered more money into teachers' pay packets. In England and Wales, teachers had already received rises for 1997-9, worth 3.3 per cent over the year while Scottish teachers had yet to reach agreement.

The reality was that Scottish pay was determined by Treasury guidelines for councils, Mr de Gruchy said. "It is easier to present a case to a review body and it is much more difficult to say no to a third party," he said.

Tino Ferri, Scottish representative on the UK national executive, and a North Lanarkshire secondary teacher, said the campaign for a review body was working. The union had backed Michael Forsyth, the former Scottish Secretary, who had pledged to scrap the SJNC. "Teachers in Scotland will be cheated if this year's award is less than 3.3 per cent," Mr Ferri said.

A pay review body would "end the chicanery" of Educational Institute of Scotland representatives meeting the management's leaders "behind the chair" to thrash out a deal that was invariably worse than south of the border.

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